TJHSST Admissions process illegally discriminates against asians (UPDATE)

An update on this thread: Selective Magnet School in Virginia moving towards a lottery system

A federal court sided with plaintiffs and found that impermissible “racial balancing” was at the core of the plan to overhaul admissions to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, known as “TJ.”

In other news, san francisco has recalled all commissioners that could be recalled. One of the issues driving the high turnout in asian neighborhoods for the recall vote was the transition of lowell to the lottery system.

In other news Virginia election-talk me down off the ledge - #76 by BobLibDem

Sounds like a commendable decision by the court; what’s the debate?

On the one Hand. Merit based admissions have been restored at Lowell.

On the other hand, SCOTUS has let the current race based admissions at TJHSST stand.

On the gripping hand, the new governor of virginia is coming through on his promise to try and roll back the new admissions policy at tjhsst.

New York has had enormous controversy over admission to its elite high schools because they were seen as admitting too many Asians and too few of other people of color.

Nothing new about any of this. A century ago, the Ivy League schools imposed quotas on Jews because too many of them were being admitted based on contemporary valuations of merit.

School admissions are an interesting problem because they are gameable. Parents who value advancing schooling can set up intense expectations and remove other options. Today they can use test prep, tutors, and other devices that can boost performance on entry exams. Some cultures have historically done this and some haven’t, leaving the expectations to individual parents. Cultures that generally boost schooling have advantages of scale.

What about cultures that rely on individual parents? Various remedies have been proposed and some tried, with mixed results. Lotteries don’t seem to work well. Yet it’s a statistical certainly that worthy youngsters are under-served in those cultures. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

Yup, it all comes down to how one arbitrarily chooses to define student “merit”, and what purpose(s) academically “elite” public schools are supposed to serve.

If “merit” is chosen to be defined as “high grades and standardized test scores”, and “elite” public schools exist to serve the students with the most “merit”, then of course those schools should accept only the highest-scoring students. Irrespective of their socioeconomic or ethnic background or anything else about them.

Is that in fact the best way for schools, even specifically “elite” schools, to serve the communities that pay for them? I’m not convinced.

Isn’t that the rationale used to keep Jews, or at least too many Jews, out of Ivy League schools? “Merit” was imputed to the blueblood Protestant elite, children of alumni, etc. rather than by scholarship alone. Since admissions pipelines cannot be trusted not to be grossly racist, sexist, and so on, I have always figured the procedures should be double-blind, or at least blind, the way auditions for an orchestra are held with the candidate behind a screen. No names, or photos, or anything like that. Not that I would automatically assume that grades and standardized test scores reflect aptitude for scholarship too much or in an objective way.

Again, it ultimately comes down to the question of how you define “merit” and what you think the goals of schools/colleges are, or ought to be.

There’s a certain amount of cognitive dissonance in the “meritocracy” debate as well. Most college applicants, like anybody else, naturally want their own “academic merit” to give them an admissions advantage over less “meritorious” students. But at the same time, most of them also favor schools with more diverse student bodies and with a thriving variety of student interests and activities, including nonacademic ones like sports teams and arts groups.

No individual applicant wants a lower-scoring applicant to be accepted instead of themselves, of course. But most applicants are okay with the idea of some other high-scoring applicant sometimes being rejected in favor of a lower-scoring applicant who’s a stellar athlete or musician, or has other characteristics that they think will make their school a more enjoyable place to be and will attract more interesting and dynamic fellow-students (especially of one’s preferred gender/orientation). “Meritocracy for me, diversity for thee”, so to speak.

It’s at the college level that this paradox hits the hardest. Colleges, especially residential liberal-arts colleges, really are expected to be all things to all students: providing both a firmly competitive pecking order to validate one’s academic ability, and a life-changing immersion in rewarding nonacademic experiences with all sorts of different people. It’s no wonder that different ideals of admissions criteria often clash.

That said, the “meritocracy” movement is far from monolithic, even within populations that you would think might benefit most from it:

I think we are talking about academic merit.

This isn’t really arbitrary is it? There is a rational connection between testing and grades and selection of kids for advanced academics, isn’t there?
There are thousands of studies showing that testing measures a real thing.

I think the purpose that these screened schools serve is not to perpetuate some notion of elitism so much as it is to serve the special needs of gifted kids. Now testing may not be a perfect method of identifying gifted kids but so far its been the most reliable method we have found so far.

I don’t know that there are too many people who are open to being convinced of things they aren’t already inclined to believe. But how do you propose we address the special needs of gifted kids?

Really? I mean “stellar athlete or musician” sounds like merit even if it is not academic merit. But melanin content does not sound like merit. The melanin content of your skin does not sound like merit.

Racial diversity has some value but achieving it through racial discrimination seems, well discriminatory.

I think a lot of it depends on how you ask the question.

The question in that survey by AAPIVOTE was: “Do you favor or oppose affirmative action programs designed to help black/black people, women and other minorities get better access to higher education.”

But according to this pew survey, there is no racial group with a majority supporting racial preferences in college admissions.

Asian americans are the most likely to think race should at least be a minor factor but 58% of asians, 62% of blacks, 65% of hispanics, 78% of whites, and 63% of democrats and 85% of republicans think race should not be a factor in college admissions.

Race based affirmative action failed in california at least 3 times in my lifetime. In the recent prop 19, 57% of californians voted against race based affirmative action, 52 out of 58 counties voted against race based affirmative action.

Note that @damuriajashi considers a lottery for admissions without regard for race to be “race based”.

Merit does not inherently mean that you start at the highest scores and work your way down. It is not required that rewards and opportunities only be given to those with the “highest” merit in competition with all other students.

That is a choice, not a natural law. It is trivial to select all applicants who meet your school’s criteria (i.e. merit), then assign spots through a lottery, or through some other method.

This is how the non-academic world works, nobody checks your scores on the CPA, Bar, lifeguard or welding exams. You hire a programmer, you don’t give them an exam and just take whoever got the highest score, you find people with the certifications you need, the people who clear the bar for that job, who have merit, THEN you choose among them.

Especially if it’s a much lower-scoring applicant.

Unless I missed something, that “research” supposedly indicates support among Asian-Americans for affirmative action in general. Do they really “favor the program”, meaning Harvard’s admissions process?

Fine, but what percentage would they be if Harvard’s admissions process wasn’t skewed toward certain ethnic groups?

Hopefully no one is thinking “well, 25% is enough, they should be content with that.”

I don’t consider all lotteries to be race based.

I consider a shift from a merit based system to a lottery system to be race based to be race based when the stated purpose of the change is to change the racial makeup of the school. I don’t know how you can see it any other way. Facial neutrality has not been effective camouflage for racial discrimination for at least 50 years.

The biggest beneficiary of the lottery system has been white kids. Turns out randomly selecting students from a predominantly white area yields more white kids.

From the hearings:

FYI, the current system is not lottery based. It is based on a combination of grades and geography.

If a bunch of kids all want to get into an academic program and some kids have higher academic achievement, what method are you proposing?

Should we really be picking kids based on the color of their skin?

The criteria in the lottery (which ultimately was considered such a bad idea that they abandoned it) included 95% of applicants. It only weeded out 5% of the applicants.

If there was a way to rank every lifeguard based on a relevant merit based measurement, would you try to hire the one with the nest score or just pick one at random from among the top 95% of scores?

Do you really want to start applying non-academic practices to the academic environment as if the non-academic practices are better?

Make up your mind. Are “elite” public schools supposed to make their admissions decisions solely on the basis of “academic merit” (and what exactly does that mean? selecting only the students with the highest numerical test scores and grades, or something else?), or on the basis of “merit” more broadly defined (and what exactly does THAT mean?)?

Well, if racial diversity has some value, and it’s a value that we want our “elite” public schools to have, then how do we go about actually implementing it? And how about socioeconomic diversity more generally, which has a lot of overlap with racial diversity? Is that valuable for our “elite” public schools, and if so, how do we implement it?

A lot of “pro-meritocracy” advocates who make simplistic categorical assertions like “Admissions policies should be based on academic merit” and “Admissions lotteries are racial discrimination” imagine that their assertions should be conclusively ending a discussion, when actually all they’re doing is starting one.

Yeah, like I said, there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance on the issue. A majority of Americans object to the idea of considering race/ethnicity as a factor in college admissions, yet most college applicants of all races still want to attend racially diverse colleges.

I mean, this should not be that surprising. Despite all the conservative rhetoric about how misguided “woke” college administrators are high-handedly and unilaterally “forcing” diversity initiatives on helpless applicants and their families who really just want to see “merit” rewarded, admissions policies at American colleges are in fact strongly geared toward generating the kind of campus environments and student bodies that applicants themselves want. Because that’s an important part of how you get aspiring college students to apply to your school.

A whole lot of people say they don’t want any “racial preferences” or other diversity initiatives in college admissions, but nonetheless automatically expect and desire colleges to have diverse student bodies. As long as those folks refuse to recognize the inherent contradictions in their positions, there’s no real way to meaningfully discuss the issue with them.

The argument from those in favor of racial preferences in college admissions has been that asians are already over-represented so they should be happy and it would be greedy to want more. As if we all eat from a communal bowl.

The thing is that for the longest time, asians represented 18%-20% of the entering class. Regardless of the quality of applicants and the increase in the number of asian applications, the number of asians being admitted stood at 18-20%. Then the lawsuits started and now we are at 26%. What caused the sudden surge in asian admissions over the last few years after the litigation started to gain steam?

I’m proposing a non-competitive method.

Let’s consider a theoretical high value academic program. Students who do well, let’s say they achieve a particular high level of academic results, National Junior Honor Society, Honor Roll, or the like, are eligible to participate in this program.

Would you object to allowing 100% of students who achieve these merits admission to the program? We have identified a reasonable metric of academic success, we do not admit those who fail to show high academic skills, because those without academic skills cannot do well in this program. Is this OK?

Now, when we have only enough seats for 50% of these students, why do we need to have the students duke it out in the Thunderdome for the chance to attend? That changes the criteria from “have enough skills” to “win a competition”.

Personally, I don’t think children should be forced to win a competition in order to go to a public school. Take 100% of the kids who are qualified for the program, and randomly select who gets to go. Maybe then the parents who are ruthlessly pushing their kids for stratospheric test scores can lay the fuck off for a little while, because it’s not going to give their kid the leg up they so richly demand.

You pick the qualified lifeguard whom you think will do the best job. Not the one who swims the fastest, or who can get down off the chair quickest, or can pull the heaviest dummy through the water. You pick the qualified lifeguard who will make a good addition to the team, who won’t show up late, or hungover, or get in fist fights with other lifeguards, who pays attention to the pool instead of the girls around the pool. There’s no test for that.